Our Lady of Guadalupe Pre-school adopts inclusive approach to serve area families.A student reads a book while lying on his stomach over a brand new colorful carpet with geometric designs, while his peers, seating around a small round table, are moving their muscles to build different animal figures with clay.Such was the activity on a Sept. 13 morning, two weeks after opening day at Our Lady of Guadalupe brand new Pre-school, whose creation represents a response to needs in the Hermosa Beach community. The program will help school families with younger children, and especially working parents seeking for a place to leave their children during work hours, said April Beuder, Our Lady of Guadalupe’s new principal and former vice-principal at neighboring American Martyrs (Manhattan Beach).The South Bay city of Hermosa Beach has an increasingly diversified population, welcoming younger professionals involved in the aerospace industry, health care and other higher end fields, who are starting their families. As the city’s only private school, Our Lady of Guadalupe — administered by Conventual Franciscan Friars and the parish — is looking to establish itself as a go-to educational resource for young families. And the changes have already paid off. The K-8 school observed an increased enrollment this school year, for the first time in five years, and the new pre-school — which had been taking shape for several years — is a key part of that.Inclusive enrollmentThe pre-school opened with an enrollment of 28 students and a waiting list building up for next year, said Beuder.The school offers full-day (7 a.m.-6 p.m.) and half-day (7 a.m.-1 p.m.) programs in a “developmentally appropriate and multi-sensory environment” that prepares children in their transition to Kindergarten. The program includes development of language, motor and social skills for ages 3-5, and vocabulary and numeracy for ages 4-5.During the enrollment process, the Brigance standardized test — used by educators as a tool to help them in their screening and assessment needs — was administered to the young students. Pre-school director Dr. Marianne Mitchell (who is OLG School’s psychologist) then met with parents to set individual goals for their children.A key component of the program is the inclusion of children with special needs, including learning and/or physical disabilities, who are treated equally, and helps the other students in their socialization.“With this we are modeling an attitude of advocating for one another,” said Mitchell, a veteran educator with graduate degrees in general education, special education and school psychology.“We have a commitment to become an inclusive learning community, inclusive of children with all abilities and learning styles,” added Beuder. “All children have equal rights to resources and access to curriculum.”To that end Mitchell is working on a grant project to increase resources for the future. An assistant works closely with her, plus an experienced early child educator and two aides with experience in education.Spirituality is another key area in the curriculum. Children are invited to go to the “prayer corner” to write names of other children they would like prayers for, and a quilt is being created by them and the teachers with names of donors.Strong foundationFollowing in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, the Franciscans’ founder and patron of the environment, OLG in 2010 pioneered implementing a solar project of church, school and friary. To date it is the largest project of its kind in Hermosa Beach and its surrounding cities.And with her love for the environment and expertise in education that developed after being a stay-at-home mom of three children for 11 years, Beuder was a natural fit to lead the school following the retirement of OLG principal Cheryl Hunt after 21 years.While at American Martyrs, her home parish for the last 20 years, Beuder (a convert to Catholicism) observed the progress at Our Lady of Guadalupe. What particularly caught her attention was the campus’ “greening.”“I could tell this is an environmentally-conscious school and community and I told myself, ‘OK, let’s see what else,’” said Beuder, who discovered her own teaching skills when she became involved in faith formation as a volunteer at American Martyrs.Having taught third, sixth and eighth grades before becoming vice-principal, and earning a master’s degree in education from Loyola Marymount University, Beuder — currently working on a doctorate degree in administration — applied for the OLG principal position, and got the job. “This has been an amazing journey for me,” she said. “This is God’s plan and I’m open to new challenges.”Beuder said she will maintain an open-door policy for parents, faculty, staff and students. To build trust in the school community, she started working last spring and got more involved in the transition process that officially started in July, with the support of Father Ray Mallett, pastor, the faculty and the leadership of the Parent and Teacher Council.Reaching financial stability, proper staff and faculty accreditation, and improving the curriculum to develop a reading/writing and science model, are the three key areas she has identified as priorities during this first year. {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/0928/spolg/{/gallery}